"Like a fallen soldier, a flag that is being retired must be handled with reverence and dignity" states The United States flag code.
With that kind of directive in mind, thousands of used American flags were ceremoniously burned Sunday during the Tamaqua American Legion's First Annual Flag Retirement Ceremony, held next to the Legion located on West Broad Street.
The United States Flag Code points out that when the flag becomes worn, torn, faded or badly soiled, it is time to replace it with a new flag, and the old flag should be "retired" with all the dignity and respect befitting a symbol of our nation.
"The traditional method of retirement is to incinerate the flag, but this does not mean we simply drop the flag, into a fire," the code points out. "Instead, the flag, like that fallen soldier, is properly encased and prepared for cremation and burial."
Sunday's ceremony began with members of the Lansford American Legion Riders holding a flag collection run through multiple communities and ending at the Tamaqua Legion. Nescopec Street was also blocked of traffic during the ceremony to allow for arrival of the Riders, as well as to provide a quick response from firefighters with the Citizen's Fire Company, who were also on-hand for safety reasons.
Two large tents, donated by the Kellner's Dam Association and Sky-View Memorial Park, were also set up on the lawn of the Tamaqua Legion to accommodate dignitaries, guests and the public.
Performing the ceremony were Tamaqua Legion Adjutant Ed Smith, serving as master of ceremonies; Commander Joel Perry; and First Vice Commander Larry Kabana. Guests included 13th District Deputy Commander Mary T. Zelonis, Tamaqua Salvation Army Major Sharon Whispell and others.
Perry said that next year's flag retirement will also involve the ceremonial internment of this year's flag ashes into an underground vault, which will be installed later this year in the lawn at the Legion. He thanked all the volunteers that helped put this event together.
In addition to guests, junior members, volunteers and Legion members, special appreciation was given to the Tamaqua American Legion Sons and Auxiliary, Tamaqua Borough, fire department, fire police, police, Lansford Legion Riders, Kellner's Dam Association, DJ Shawn Fredericks, Chris Morrison, Sky-View Memorial Park, the Farber family and others.
Worn flags can be given to any Legion member or by dropping them off in the flag retirement receptacle located on the front porch of the Tamaqua Legion.